Review: They’re Watching You by Chelsea Ichaso

They're Watching YouThey’re Watching You by Chelsea Ichaso
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, that didn’t go as I expected…

They’re Watching You was a highly-anticipated release for me. Unfortunately, this story and I did not get along.

In this novel we’re following Maren, a student at the prestigious Torrey-Wells Academy. Two weeks ago, Maren’s best friend, Polly, went missing from school. Prior to her disappearance, Polly said some cryptic things to Maren.

When everyone, including the police and school headmistress, assume that Polly has run away, Maren knows that’s not true. Polly was her roommate, she knew her better than anyone. Polly would never leave her hanging like that.

Thus Maren begins looking into it. To her it’s clear, her friend is in trouble and she’ll do anything she can to help.

When Maren finds an envelope hidden among Polly’s things, containing an invitation to a secret society, she knows this is a lead worth following.

Rumors have swirled at school about this mysterious Gamemaster’s Society for years, and as Maren digs in, she realizes there may be a lot of truth behind the whispers. Luckily, she finds out from classmates just the info she needs to secure her own invitation.

Before she knows it, Maren is elbow-deep in secret society craziness. There is a whole underground world at her school, one very few people get to see.

The games cooked up by the society are one thing, but Maren discovers she is playing a game of her own. For every win, she’s one step closer to finding out the truth about what has happened to Polly.

Y’all, I really wanted to love this and in the beginning, I thought that maybe I would. Sadly, this never got off the ground for me and the ending, easily anticipated, left me underwhelmed.

The set-up was intriguing. I liked the idea behind what Ichaso was building, but the execution did not fit my tastes at all. I found the characters to be flat and frankly, boring, especially Maren.

Maren’s personality was practically nonexistent. Besides her insistence on not giving up on Polly, I couldn’t feel anything from her. All these wild things are happening to her, yet her thoughts and actions are putting me to sleep. I felt zero intensity.

Additionally, the romantic elements felt so forced and out of place in lieu of all that was happening. I sort of get one of the connections, as she is working closely with a certain someone to try to gain the information she needs, but it still felt out of place.

Lastly, the person who appears to be running everything, our villain, was ridiculous. I just could not get behind that person as an evil mastermind. Nope, nope, nope.

It just wasn’t for me. The motivations, the romance, the fatuous games that everyone willing participated in for no truly logical reasons and the fact that our heroine is hypocritical and boring, just never allowed this one to connect for me.

With this being said, this is 100% personal opinion. I know that a lot of Readers will enjoy this and I am so happy for those that do. Everyone has different tastes, that’s one of the best things about reading, how subjective it is.

So if this sounds interesting to you, if the synopsis raises your eyebrows, you should absolutely pick it up and give it a go. I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to picking up more from this author in the future. Perhaps their next release will be more to my liking.

Thank you to the publisher, Sourcebooks Fire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate having the opportunity to share my opinions.

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Review: Nine Liars (Truly Devious #5) by Maureen Johnson

Nine Liars (Truly Devious, #5)Nine Liars by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

School is back in session and Stevie Bell has finally hit her Senior Year. Unfortunately, with her boyfriend, David, overseas studying in London, Miss Stevie is that mopey, distracted long-distance relationship girl. We all know her.

Her friends are noticing the change and although they’re mostly supportive, they sort of wish she would just get back to being herself. Solve a murder, or something.

Soon enough, it’s David to the rescue, as he has hatched a fairly stellar plan. He invites Stevie, Nate, Janelle and Vi to come to London to do a study-abroad for a week. Each of them devises a schedule and specific course of inquiry for their time there.

David has secured them a place to stay. It should be easy. They just need to sell the Headmaster on the idea.

I think you know what happens because the group ends up there, in London, ready to study their little hearts out. Sure.

On their first night, they get introduced to Izzy, one of David’s closest London friends. As luck would have it, Izzy has a mystery. Stevie is winning all around, her hot boyfriend and a cold-case mystery all in one place!!

Izzy has insight on this mystery because her Aunt Angela was one of the individuals involved.

In 1995, Angela was part of a very tight-knit group of friends, collectively known as The Nine: Sebastian, Rosie, Angela, Sooz, Peter, Noel, Theo, Yash and Julien. They were all actors, artists and their lifestyle was a bit wild. They worked hard and played harder.

After their graduation from Cambridge, as a bit of a celebration, they took a trip to Julien’s family’s country estate. The morning after a drunken version of hide-and-seek, two members of the group are found dead.

It’s clear they were murdered. Very clear. Yet due to lack of evidence, no one was ever arrested for the crime.

Years later, under the influence of pain relievers following a hospital stay, Izzy’s Aunt Angela says some things to her that raise Izzy’s suspicions. Does her Aunt know what happened to her two murdered friends?

She asks Stevie to look into it and you know our Stevie, you are not going to dangle something that tempting in front of her and not have her bite.

Thus begins the London-installment of Truly Devious!

I love this series so much. This is the 5th-book and I have eagerly read them all. I’ve never been disappointed and will continue to pick them up for as long as they are released.

This was such a fun romp with Stevie and friends. I loved the change of scenery with them studying in London for a week and of course, the murder mystery solving.

Additionally, in this one, I really enjoyed the past timeline following Aunt Angela and her friends. It was such a dynamic, yet messy, group and I was living for the drama.

In the present timeline, there was also drama of course. Stevie and David navigating their relationship, taking it to new levels and all of them being focused on the college application process. I’m always interested in watching characters grow and begin to figure out their own path.

This is a bit of slow burn. It does take a while to really get into the intensity of the mystery and subsequent investigation. However, in my opinion, it was well paced and I think the payoff was worth the wait.

Ohhh, also, we’re definitely getting another book. There’s no way this is the end of Stevie’s story. Maureen Johnson wouldn’t play us like that.

I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who has been enjoying the Truly Devious series. For those who haven’t started it yet, and enjoy YA Mystery, what are you waiting for?! This is not a series to be missed!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Katherine Tegen Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m low-key obsessed with this series and hope for many more future installments!

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Review: A Ruinous Fate (Heartless Fates #1) by Kaylie Smith

A Ruinous Fate (Heartless Fates, #1)A Ruinous Fate by Kaylie Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me choose my own fate. Or ruin myself trying…

Calla Rosewood is a young witch essentially trying to outrun her fate. Due to a dangerous curse, Calla left her coven 4-years ago and has been living a life of secrecy with her best friends, Hannah and Delphine, ever since.

It’s a complicated history, but in addition to her curse Calla has marks on her skin that display her past rolls of the Witch’s Dice. These marks indicate Calla is very close to fulfilling the legend of becoming the last Blood Warrior.

After a horrendous night where she is betrayed by her ex, Ezra, Calla finds herself one-step closer to fulfilling her fate. Then she meets someone who offers her the chance to erase her previous rolls for good.

Of course she’s suspicious. She thought she was the only one with rolls this bad, but according to this guy, he has the same rolls. He’s heard of a spell that can be performed by the notorious Witch Eater that can erase their marks and clear the slate.

Gideon, the man with the enticing offer, needs Calla’s help gathering the ingredients needed to perform the spell.

He asks her to enter the deadly Neverending Forest with him on the mission. This is where the Witch Eater lives and unfortunately the only way they can complete their task.

We’ve got ourselves a quest, one of my all-time favorite Fantasy tropes. All aboard!!

Joining strong and sexy, Gideon and Calla, on their quest will be Calla’s charming ex-Ezra, as well as Hannah and Delphine. They can’t let Calla risk her life alone. They really are good friends.

The group enters the Neverending Forest and quickly realize this is not to be a simple journey. Nothing in the forest is as it appears, with the forest constantly changing and rearranging.

Luckily, Delphine, a siren, has magic that allows her to see past some of the forest’s trickery, but will it be enough to get them through to the end of their mission successfully?

I’m probably doing a horrendous job summarizing this complicated plot, but hopefully you get the general idea. For me, this story got progressively stronger as it went along.

Initially, you are thrown into this world and I was definitely floundering. There’s not a lot of explanation as far as the world goes. You’re just sort of dropped into it in a way that, honestly, felt jarring.

Eventually though, it does settle down and I ended up becoming extremely invested in these characters, their journey and the ultimate outcome.

I loved the darkly-magical forest atmosphere. It was the perfect backdrop for our protagonist’s quest. It gave a certain Alice in Wonderland feel with danger at every turn.

I liked learning about Calla and her friends, although I’m still not sure I grasp all of the nuance behind the magic system. There was a lot that I am hoping will be explored further in the second book; including the difference between the kinds of witches.

There is romance, including a tense love triangle. I liked the triangle, but I’m that way. I know a lot of people aren’t into it, so I will toss the caution flag here. In my opinion, this one had great drama. It was scandalous and I was here for it.

Additionally, there was a ton of action and as it got closer to the conclusion, I was definitely at the edge of my seat. I cannot believe how this left off. There were some events I didn’t see coming.

How long until the next book?

Overall, even though the beginning felt a bit chaotic, and I still have some questions about the world and magic system as a whole, I did truly enjoy this.

Seriously, the ending, oh my word, how am I going to wait!? So much went down and it was simultaneously badass, intense and heartbreaking.

I cannot wait to return to this world and group of characters. Yikes, there is so much story left to tell. This was well done by Kaylie Smith. I’m sold.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I ended up having a ton of fun with this and definitely recommend it to fans of angst-filled YA Fantasy.

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Review: The Box in the Woods (Truly Devious #4) by Maureen Johnson

The Box in the Woods (Truly Devious #4)The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s finally Summer and for True Crime enthusiast, Stevie Bell, that means returning home from Ellingham Academy. After solving a real-life murder case at school, working at the deli counter of a local grocery store is going to be a real Snooze Fest. Yawn, indeed.

Stevie has just about come to grips with her new Summer status when she receives some correspondence that grabs her attention. Maybe the next couple of months won’t be so boring after all.

The message is from the new owner of a kid’s summer camp, Shady Pines, formerly known as Camp Wonder Falls. Stevie is intrigued because she knows this camp.

In 1978, Camp Wonder Falls, and the neighboring town of Barlow Corners, suffered a terrible tragedy. Four local teens, all counselors at the camp, were killed in the woods one night, having snuck away for some private fun.

The case was never solved. Carson, the new owner, invites Stevie to become a counselor, while also working with him developing a podcast focusing on the murders.

You may be wondering why an adult would seek Stevie out and offer her this position, but keep in mind, at this point, Stevie and her crime solving antics have gained her some notoriety. Particularly in True Crime circuits. Carson believes Stevie may be able to crack the decades old case.

The kicker is, Stevie gets to bring some friends along. That sweetens the deal and she’s in, along with Nate and Janelle.

But this town is as enmeshed in these murders as the camp itself, and someone doesn’t want the case to be solved, putting Stevie and her friends in danger. Will they be able to figure it, or become victims themselves?

The Box in the Woods was nostalgic and fun. I enjoyed the shake-up, as far as the setting goes, in this one. I love Ellingham Academy, don’t get me wrong, but this made for a nice change of pace.

I always enjoy a scary summer camp vibe and this definitely had that. It was campy, mysterious and cleverly-plotted. A fantastic set-up.

As with the earlier books in this series, you do get the past perspective played out for you as well. I enjoyed the sections from the past a lot.

You’re there as the vicious crime is discovered and then taken back to learn of events leading up to it. The murders themselves were chilling, the descriptions and discovery, just imagining being in the camp when something like that happened. It was creepy.

Amateur sleuths are one of my absolute favorite tropes in a mystery and Stevie is one of the best. I love how her mind works and watching her go about her research and putting the pieces together is just so satisfying.

I also was impressed with how Johnson wrote this one so that it could actually be read as a standalone. I have read every book in this series and would definitely recommend that, but I can see how someone could actually read this on its own.

Then, once they fall in the love with the characters, they could actually go back and read the previous books.

Oh, also, before I forget, for David fans, he is in this one too and I gotta say, I enjoyed him here. I’ve never been a huge David-stan, but for some reason in this one, he really grew on me.

I’m not sure if it is because of everything he has been through over the course of the last two books, but he is really maturing and nicely. I’m super stoked for the next book, because I’m interested to see where their relationship goes.

For those interested, the fifth book, Nine Liars, is releasing at the end of this month, on Tuesday, December 27th.

I love these characters and the compelling mysteries Johnson brings to the page. The alternating timelines and steady progressions of the plots have never failed to keep me fully engaged.

I will continue to read this series for as long as they continue to release books. Stevie fan for life!!

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Review: A Wilderness of Stars by Shea Ernshaw

A Wilderness of StarsA Wilderness of Stars by Shea Ernshaw
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Vega has been raised by her mother in a secluded valley. The two are completely isolated from the rest of their society, except for occasional visits from Pa, a medicine man, who travels around selling tonics and tinctures.

Her mother has warned her about the many dangers that lurk outside their safe haven. A rapid illness is sweeping the land, making people desperate, scared and fierce.

One night Vega sees an omen in the skies. It matches a legend she has been told; a prophecy of sorts. It calls for her to leave their valley.

Unfortunately, Vega’s mother is very ill. She cannot travel and Vega refuses to leave her behind. Vega’s Mom knows what the message of the skies means though, she knows Vega’s time is limited, she must leave. So, her Mom dies.

Problem solved.

Officially on her own for the first time, Vega, secretly the Last Astronomer, knows what she must do. She needs to travel to the sea, a place neither she, nor her ancestors have ever been and she needs to find The Architect.

Within the two, the cure to their world’s ills may be found. Hopefully. Vega knows her position is precarious, so keeping her identity secret is of the utmost importance.

This story follows Vega on her journey. There are a lot of obstacles standing in her way, but along with a couple of strong allies, she’s hoping she can get to the sea.

If she does though, what will happen once she gets there? It’s hard to decipher from the legends. All Vega knows is that the fate of her world rests in her hands. No pressure.

Objectively, I know that A Wilderness of Stars is a good, creative story with fantastic writing. However, it just was not for me.

It hurts my heart to write this, but honestly, I was bored throughout the entirety of the book. I didn’t like the characters, I found the setting to be lackluster and I wasn’t sold on the romance in the slightest.

It felt very low stakes and unengaging. I know you might be asking, how can the entire fate of the world being in one girl’s little hands not be high stakes? And to that I will just say, I gave zero poops about the world. It could’ve burned out in a blaze of glory for all I cared.

I have read other reviews and I know that I am definitely in the minority opinion on this and that’s okay. The writing is very lyrical and I know a lot of Readers love that. For me, the essence of the story sort of got overshadowed by all that beautiful writing.

Like, where you at plot, all I see is beautiful sentences…

With this being said, this is 100% personal opinion. I know the majority of people are going to read this and love it. It just wasn’t suited to my tastes.

There’s a book for every Reader and a Reader for every book. If the synopsis sound intriguing to you, absolutely give it a go. It could be a new favorite for you.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I really appreciate the opportunity.

Although this wasn’t my favorite, I still love Shea Ernshaw so much and will continue to pick up anything and everything she writes!

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Review: Little Monsters by Kara Thomas

Little MonstersLittle Monsters by Kara Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Kacey has had a strained relationship with her volatile mother for years. When it becomes too much for her to handle, Kacey moves to Broken Falls, Wisconsin, to live with the father she has never met.

Her Dad has a wife, Ashley, a step-son, Andrew, and a younger daughter, Lauren. Kacey is simply thrust into their family. It’s not necessarily comfortable at first, but overall she’s grateful to have a more secure environment. It’s definitely a change for her.

It’s not necessarily easy to be the new girl at school either, although we love a new girl trope.

Luckily for Kacey, Bailey and her best friend, Jade, see Kacey, a ship without a port and take her into their group. Soon enough the trio are like peas in a pod.

They get up to the typical high school girl things like sneaking out, trespassing and trying to summon spirits in abandoned buildings. You know, the usual. There is some minor tension amongst the girls, of course, but that’s normal too.

Sometimes Kacey prefers to spend quiet nights at home, but Bailey and Jade are usually fairly insistent that she join them on nights out.

On the night of the biggest party of the year though, Kacey doesn’t hear from them. They seem to have ghosted her.

Kacey is concerned. Even though she enjoys some quiet time, FOMO is real. The next day, Kacey receives the news that Bailey is missing. She just disappeared, gone in the night. Did she run off, was she taken, is she still alive?

When the police question Kacey, she’s not exactly forthcoming with the truth. Does she have something to hide she’s not letting on to the Reader?

This was such an interesting story. We followed Kacey mostly, but we also got some of Bailey’s perspective. It was a compelling sway of back-and-forth.

Kacey was an interesting main character, who had been through a lot already in her young life. Now as she seemed to be settling into a more secure home environment, other aspects of her life seemed to be getting out of hand.

The more Kacey digs, the more it seems that everyone suspects her of having done something to Bailey. Kacey’s determined to figure this out. She actually wants to find Bailey, but small towns can hold a lot of secrets and loyalties run deep.

Kara Thomas knows how to build suspense. This one had me absolutely glued to the pages. It was unsettling. Stories like this, that feel so very real to life can be so disturbing.

I picked this up as Book #11 for my TBR-Haul Project. I hauled this in November of 2018 and am so happy that I finally made the time for it.

I’d heard a lot about this book from others and everything they said was true. I definitely recommend the audiobook format. It was fantastically narrated. I was so invested in this narrative and characters.

This is such a compelling mystery. Highly recommend!

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Review: Belladonna (Belladonna #1) by Adalyn Grace

Belladonna (Belladonna, #1)Belladonna by Adalyn Grace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

With a story as beautiful as its cover, Belladonna took me completely by surprise. I enjoyed this so much!

We follow Signa Farrow, who is not your average girl. I know you hear that a lot, but in this case it’s true. For example, she has an immunity to Belladonna, can commune with spirits and has a relationship with Death.

Unfortunately, our Signa was orphaned as a child and has lived with many guardians since. Recently, she’s been with her Aunt Magda, who is cruel. There’s no love lost between the two. So, when Aunt Magda suddenly dies, Signa isn’t exactly heartbroken.

She does have questions about her future though. Then she receives word that her last remaining relatives, the Hawthornes, would like her to go live with them at their Thorn Grove estate, as her Uncle Elijah’s ward.

Lacking other options, Signa leaves her old life behind willingly and with a bit of hope in her heart.

Arriving at the estate, she begins to become acquainted with everyone. Her Uncle is mourning his wife, Lilianne, who passed away recently. Woefully, her younger cousin, Blythe, seems to be suffering from the same mysterious illness that prematurely killed her mother.

When it becomes clear to Signa that Lilianne didn’t die of natural causes an unexpected murder mystery begins to unfold. This is made significantly more interesting by the fact that Signa gets the support of her old friend, Death, as she tries to solve it.

This book surprised me. I really didn’t know much about it going in. My initial attraction was the cover, followed by Adalyn Grace’s name on said gorgeous cover.

I was delighted with the setting, which based off some dates of included journal entries would be sometime in the 1850s or 1860s. It has a lush gothic feel that I really loved. Even the focus on plants like belladonna, Signa’s frequent use of it, felt very period specific and natural to me.

I enjoyed learning about Signa’s Thorn Grove family along with her. She’s really thrust right into their world of formal parties, frequent visitors and gossipers galore.

Having lived a fairly secluded life up until that point, I think Signa had felt very lonely. Now surrounded with people she becomes attached, to some more than others. Particularly her cousin, Blythe. She’s very saddened by Blythe’s illness and becomes determined to see her well.

I actually really ended up enjoying the romantic elements as well. I loved the dynamic between Signa and the character of Death. It was giving me Addie LaRue vibes and I was not mad about it.

Signa, at the age where it would be acceptable for her to marry, has some other prospects as well. Watching her navigate that, while trying to decipher her unusual feelings for Death was super compelling. I was eating it up.

Grace did a fantastic job of building the tension and mystery. It was hard to put down once Signa began looking into Blythe’s illness. It was a bit of a race against the clock and for a while, almost everyone was a suspect.

I loved the ending of this as well. It was a great set-up for the second book. Personally, I cannot wait to get my hands on it. Signa is one of my favorite new characters of the year, so I can’t wait to be reunited with her.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and Hachette Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review.

I definitely recommend the audiobook for this story. It was so easy to get swept up into this world through that medium. 10-out-of-10 recommend!!

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Review: Never Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales

Never Ever Getting Back TogetherNever Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My confession of the day is that I have never watched a full episode of either The Bachelor, or The Bachelorette.

Of course I have watched clips and understand the general idea, I’m not a savage. I also recognize it is an absolute sensation and many people love it.

After having so much fun with this book, I think I may need to binge some!

The set-up of Never Ever Getting Back Together feels very ode’ to The Bachelor and frankly I was living for it.

We follow rich, related-to-royalty, arguably-charming playboy, Jordy, getting his own reality television show, Second-Chance Romance.

For the show, ex-girlfriends of Jordy’s will be living together in a mansion, interacting with him and each other, participating in challenges and generally biding for his attention. Week-by-week, Jordy sends one girl packing, until the time comes for his final selection.

Maya dated Jordy two-years ago and the break-up was rough. He cheated on her for months before ultimately calling it quits suddenly when she called him out on his behavior.

Skye dated Jordy directly after Maya. In fact, Maya’s reputation precedes her. Jordy warned Skye how jealous and crazy Maya got after he broke up with her.

Skye can’t believe Maya is joining the show too. Isn’t she like a security risk or something?

When Maya learns Skye, the girl who stole Jordy from her, is going to be participating on the show as well, she’s furious. This girl knowingly dated Jordy behind her back for months. Who does that? Filthy liars, that’s who.

Arriving at the mansion the two girls learn an even more horrible truth, they’re being forced to room together. They’re quite literally bunk-mates.

They try to muscle through it, they might even be contractually-obligated to, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Along with four other girls, Maya and Skye start to settle into their new normal and compete for the ultimate prize: Jordy.

Maya’s no fool though. She knows Jordy too well to fall for any of this smoke in mirrors. Jordy hasn’t changed and that’s fine by her. Maya isn’t dreaming of becoming Jordy’s one-true love, she’s dreaming of revenge.

I had a lot of fun with this. Particularly the set-up, it was adorable. The narrative alternates between Skye and Maya, beginning a little before they even agree to be on the show.

The backdrop of the mansion, filming the reality show, it was great. I felt like I was getting a real glimpse behind the scenes of an actual show. It felt very realistic.

I also liked the mix of personalities that the contestants had. They all had their own motivations for being there and few of those actually revolved around Jordy, or love.

Skye and Maya’s interactions, as they got to know one another, as they battled and then began to drop their defenses; I thought that was really well done too.

My only slight issues with this story would be that I feel like it may have worked better if the story was actually written as New Adult, or Adult. It could have gone farther in the exploration of the relationships.

Also, I didn’t feel the chemistry between the characters. I didn’t find the romance that ultimately transpires believable.

These are tiny critiques though and both of these things are simply my personal opinion. Overall, this book is adorable as heck and I really enjoyed following the concept through to the end.

I was lucky enough to listen to an audio copy and definitely recommend that medium. The narrators did an incredible job bringing this story to life.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I am absolutely looking forward to more from Sophie Gonzales!!


Never Ever Getting Back Together
releases next Tuesday, November 29th. Preorder your copy now. You don’t want to miss out. Get it while it’s hot!!

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Review: Nothing More to Tell by Karen M. McManus

Nothing More to TellNothing More to Tell by Karen M. McManus
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Karen M. McManus is back and her latest novel, Nothing More to Tell is my favorite yet!

I have been so hyped about this book for over a year and apparently, for good reason. I’m not sure if it was my level of excitement that pushed this one over the top for me, but this was pretty much a perfect YA Mystery for my tastes.

And that Epilogue?! Are you kidding me, McManus!? I want more of this story and these characters so much. Fingers crossed there will be an announcement soon, if there hasn’t been already. It’s possible I missed something. Nevertheless…

This story follows Brynn and Tripp, long-time friends from Sturgis, Massachusetts, who had a falling out and were then separated for four years after Brynn’s family moved to Chicago.

Due to a change in Brynn’s father’s job, they’re back in Sturgis, right back in their old house. Brynn is nervous about going back to Saint Ambrose School. She didn’t leave under the best terms, after her ex-best friend, Tripp, embarrassed her in gym class and then socially shunned her with zero impetus or explanation.

More tragic that all that though is the fact that just prior to their move, Brynn’s favorite teacher Mr. Larkin was murdered and found in the woods adjacent to the school. Three student discovered his body, her ex-friend Tripp being one of them.

Now upon their return, Brynn is determined to get to the truth behind Mr. Larkin’s death. She even pitches the case to a popular True Crime podcast, at which she has secured a dream internship.

Back in school, Brynn’s pretty determined. Let the investigation begin. She knows someone is hiding something about Mr. Larkin and it just may be Tripp.

The Reader also gets Tripp’s perspective and there are some scenes set in the before, surrounding the time that Mr. Larkin was killed.

I absolutely adore how McManus unrolled this story. The shifting perspectives, the mini-reveals along the way as Brynn gathers more and more information, it was perfectly paced in my opinion.

I loved Brynn’s investigation. Amateur sleuths are one of my favorite tropes and I found both Brynn’s motivations and her methods believable.

I also thought there were some great red herrings and the way this wrapped up was smart. As mentioned earlier, I am fairly sure there will be another book to follow this one, but since I have heard nothing official in that regard, I will just say that I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Personally, I would love more content with Brynn and Tripp!! There’s more to explore in this town.

As an aside to long-time McManus fans, you’ll find entertaining Easter Eggs, or references to her previous works cleverly placed throughout. Every time I came across one, it would just bring a ridiculous smile to my face.

Also, it made me want to reread everything she has ever written. Frankly, that shows you just how clever this one really is. Well played, McManus. Again. Well played.

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Review: The Sacrifice by Rin Chupeco

The SacrificeThe Sacrifice by Rin Chupeco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

When a film crew from the United States arrives on Kisapmata, a deserted island in the Philippines, they are ready to get to work. They need their new show to be a success and with the content they’re after, it should be.

For me it was easy to picture this crew and their motivations. I was thinking something around the lines of Discovery shows such as The Curse of Oak Island, or The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch. You know the type of show I mean.

The thing with Kisapmata island is that a God is reputed to live within the island. He goes by different names, some consider him a Death God, some call him the Dreamer, but he is said to have the ability to grant unknowable power in exchange for eight, very specific, sacrifices.

Because of this legend, locals avoid the island as much as they can. It’s uninhabited and while they do have knowledge and respect of it, they tend to give the God his space.

The crew does discover one local teen, Alon, said to have a special relationship with the island. They’re a bit of a caretaker, spending a lot of time there and even maybe communing with the God.

Considered an expert of all things Kisapmata, the film crew are delighted when Alon agrees to stay with them and be their guide during the show.

As they settle in and begin to set up, a giant sinkhole appears in the middle of their camp. In it, belying logic, is a giant balete tree with a mummified corpse wrapped amongst it creepy-as-heck branches.

It’s like the corpse has been feeding the tree for years, but who is it and more importantly, how the heck is this tree growing underground?

Thus begins the horror that is this little island. From there stuff escalates real quick. The crew needs to get their story, but is the payoff going to be worth it?

People start seeing things, visions of people long dead and it seems nowhere is safe. As a storm rages offshore, they lose communication and have no means of escape. Is anyone going to get off this island alive?

Y’all, y’all, y’all! First of all, this is the perfect time of year to pick up this book. This story has almost everything you need for a phenomenal reading experience.

We have detailed and fascinating legends. We have, basically a curse. We have a dynamic film crew with well-fleshed out characters. We have a nonbinary main character. We have inclement weather trapping our cast at a remote location. We have atmosphere for days. We have stunning, toe-curling horror imagery. We have scenes that will make you sleep with the lights on.

The tension builds very quickly and then continues to build. It’s claustrophobic, it’s a bit panic inducing, it’s scary.

I will say that the pace increases so much towards the end, that it almost got a bit too chaotic. I found it more difficult to track what was happening towards the end and challenging to picture in my mind all that was happening. Hence, it’s not quite a 5-star for me.

That is 100% personal taste though, for many people, whose minds possibly work more quickly than my own, this will be a 5-star experience.

I have only read one other Rin Chupeco, The Girl from the Well, and I was super-impressed with the eeriness of that story as well. Chupeco definitely has the gift for horror. I would consider this to be a more-modern, YA-South Pacific version of The Ruins.

The Sacrifice is super-chilling and will stick with me for a long time to come. Chupeco truly knows how to set a scene. I had so much fun with this. 10-out-of-10 recommend!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Sourcebooks Fire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Now I need to go back and devour Chupeco’s backlist!!

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